Charcot foot, also known as Charcot arthropathy or neuropathic osteoarthropathy, is a serious condition affecting the bones, joints, and soft tissues of the foot or ankle. It is most commonly associated with individuals who have significant peripheral neuropathy, a loss of sensation in the limbs, which is often a complication of diabetes.

Understanding Charcot Foot

The condition occurs when the nerves that control the muscles and regulate blood flow in the feet are damaged, resulting in the inability to sense temperature, pain, or trauma. Because of this decreased sensation, repeated injury or stress to the foot may go unnoticed. Without the ability to sense pain, a person with Charcot foot may continue to walk on bones that are fractured or joints that are dislocating, leading to further damage and deformity.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Swelling: The foot or ankle may become inexplicably swollen.
  • Warmth: The affected area may be warmer than the surrounding skin.
  • Redness: The skin may appear red.
  • Pain: Some individuals may experience pain, although it might be less severe than expected given the nature of the condition.
  • Altered Foot Shape: As the condition progresses, the shape of the foot can change, leading to deformities such as a collapsed arch (“rocker-bottom” foot).

Diagnosis and Management

Diagnosis often involves a combination of clinical examination and imaging studies, such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans, which can demonstrate fractures and dislocations without a history of significant trauma.

Management of Charcot foot includes:

  1. Immobilization: Preventing movement of the foot and ankle by using casts or a brace.
  2. Custom Footwear: After the acute phase, custom shoes or inserts may be necessary to protect and support the foot.
  3. Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be required to realign and stabilize the foot and ankle.
  4. Long-term Monitoring: Regular check-ups are important for preventing recurrence and further complications.


  • Regular foot inspections and proper foot care are vital for people with diabetes or any condition that causes peripheral neuropathy.
  • Managing blood sugar levels within a target range can help prevent further nerve damage.
  • Avoiding walking barefoot to reduce the risk of unnoticed injury.

Charcot foot is a complicated condition requiring medical attention from a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon specializing in the foot and ankle. Quick and appropriate treatment is essential to minimize long-term damage to the feet.